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Knesset Passes Shabbat Bill in Contentious Vote

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9 Jan 2018 (All day)
Knesset Passes Shabbat Bill in Contentious Vote
The Knesset passed legislation Tuesday morning which requires municipalities wanting to allow stores to operate on Shabbat (Saturday) to acquire permission from the Interior Ministry. The bill was virulently opposed by the mayors of several of Israel’s largest cities, including Tel Aviv and Eilat, both of which are predominantly populated by citizens who are not religiously observant and who have frequently requested that shops be open on Shabbat which is, for many, their only day off from work. Shas chairman Arye Deri, the current Interior Minister, has made it clear that he has no intention of granting permission for municipalities to allow shops to be open on Shabbat under the terms of the legislation. As the Interior Ministry is often given to Ultra-Orthodox (haredi) parties when incoming coalition governments are formed, future conditions under the new law appear to promise more of the same.

The legislation has been described by political analysts as part of the latest round of an internal turf battle between and within the Haredi community, including its political representatives. Critics have accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud faction of allowing these parties, which have a relatively small constituency, to force lifestyle choices on the non-observant majority.

Reports Emerge of Slow Progress in Ethiopian Aliyah
Media reports began to surface this week that the Israeli government budgets for 2018 and ’19, which are scheduled to be debated and finalized during a series of upcoming meetings in the Knesset and different agencies, do not include allocations to address the needs of thousands of Ethiopian Jews waiting to immigrate to Israel. The ICEJ has been at the forefront of efforts to bring the Ethiopian Jews home and we request prayer for the efforts to move this issue up on the government’s agenda.

Battle of Narratives Beginning Over Iranian Protests
The street protests which rocked Iranian cities for much of the last week and a half appear to have subsided. However, the battle over how they should be interpreted began in earnest Monday as “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani issued a statement that they were not, as his hardline opponents in the regime repeatedly declared, only about economic issues but also a kind of mandate on the conduct of the regime. Meanwhile, officials declared that many of the more than 1,000 protesters arrested in recent days will be severely punished, including with the death penalty.

Elsewhere, the foreign ministers of the European Union and Iran issued a statement Monday that their plans to hold meetings in Brussels on Thursday are on track, and that the topic at the top of the agenda will be preserving the 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement, as the Trump Administration in the US has signaled a desire to amend or pull out of it. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued an additional statement that he did not expect the subject of the recent protests in his country to be raised during the discussions, hinting that he might withdraw from the talks if it did.

IS Cells Broken Up in Israel and Jordan
Israel’s Security Agency, the Shin Bet, announced on Monday that it had broken up an attempt by the Islamic State (IS) terror militia to set up a cell in southern Israel by arresting two 19-year old female citizens from the Beduin village of Lakia in the Negev. The two were indicted in Beersheeba District Court Monday on charges of using social media to contact IS members in other countries and receiving guidance and instructions on carrying out mass terror attacks against Israeli civilians. A male resident of East Jerusalem, who had been romantically involved with one of the suspects and had planned to join them in carrying out terrorist attacks, was also arrested recently.

Also on Monday, Jordanian security officials announced that they had also broken up an IS cell in their country, arresting 17 suspects and seizing weapons and explosives they planned to use in their operations.

Yiddish Theater Leading a Linguistic Revival in Israel
Renowned Israeli actor Ya’akov Bodo is the star of a recently launched traveling play entitled The Actor which tells the story of a group of Yiddish-speaking Jewish artists in Poland at the beginning of WWII. The show, an example of the unique Yiddishpiel form of performance art, is part of an ongoing renaissance of the language in Israel which was deeply frowned upon in the early years of the State as the government attempted to universalize Hebrew as the spoken language among Israeli Jews.

Today’s video gives a look at the beautiful Negev Desert in southern Israel

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